The Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party of China (Traditional Chinese: 中國國民黨; Simplified Chinese: 中国国民党; pinyin: Zhōngguó Guómíndǎng; Wade-Giles: Chung-kuo Kuo-min-tang; Tongyong Pinyin: Jhongguo Guomindang; literally the National People's Party of China) is a conservative political party currently active in the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. Together with the People First Party, it forms what is popularly known as the pan-blue coalition, which is less hostile to the idea of Chinese reunification than the pan-green coalition, which leans towards Taiwan independence.
Organized shortly after the Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, the KMT fought the Beiyang warlords and the Communist Party of China for control of the country before its retreat to Taiwan in 1949. There, it controlled the government until 2000. Thus the ROC was once referred to synonymously with the KMT and known simply as "Nationalist China" after its ruling party.
Founded in Guangdong Province on August 25, 1912 by Sung Chiao-jen and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the KMT was formed from a collection of several revolutionary groups, including the Tongmenghui, as a moderate democratic socialist party.
The party gained a majority in the first National Assembly, but in 1913 Yuan Shikai, who was President dissolved the body, had Sung assassinated, and ordered the Kuomintang suppressed.
While exiled in Japan, Sun re-established the KMT in 1914 in the form of a secret society and returned in 1918 to establish a rival government at Guangzhou. In 1923, the KMT and its government accepted aid from the Soviet Union after being denied recognition by the western powers. Soviet advisers -- the most prominent of whom was an agent of the Comintern, Mikhail Borodin -- began to arrive in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, establishing a Leninist party structure that lasted into the 1990s. The Communist Party of China (CPC) was under Comintern instructions to cooperate with the KMT, and its members were encouraged to join while maintaining their separate party identities, forming the First United Front between the two parties. Soviet advisers also helped the Nationalists set up a political institute to train propagandists in mass mobilization techniques, and in 1923 Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from the Tongmenghui days, was sent to Moscow for several months' military and political study.
At the first party congress in 1924, which included non-KMT delegates such as members of the CPC, they adopted Sun's political theory, which included the Three Principles of the People - nationalism, democracy, and the livelihood of the people.
Civil and World War
Following the death of Sun Yat-sen, General Chiang Kai-shek emerged as the KMT leader and launched the Northern Expedition in 1926 against the warlord government in Beijing. He halted briefly in Shanghai in 1927 to purge the Communists who had been allied with the KMT, which sparked the Chinese Civil War. Kuomintang forces took Beijing in 1928 and received widespread diplomatic recognition in the same year. Thus began the period of "political tutelage," whereby the party was to control the government while instructing the people on how to participate in a democratic system.
After several military campaigns, the Communists were forced (1934-35) to withdraw from their bases in southern and central China. The Kuomintang continued to attack the Communists, even during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
After the defeat of the Japanese, full-scale civil war between the Communists and Nationalists resumed. Chiang Kai-shek ordered his forces to the cities to defend industrialists and financiers, allowing the Communists to move freely through the countryside. Much of the war from 1946-1949 was financed from Taiwan's sugar and rice reserves acquired by the KMT. By the end of 1949 the Communists controlled almost all of mainland China, as the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan with 2 million refugees along with a hoard of China's national treasures.
KMT on Taiwan
In 1950 Chiang took office in Taipei under emergency rules that halted democratic processes until the mainland could be recovered from the communists. During this time, as a result of the 228 Incident, Taiwanese people had to endure what is called the "White Terror", a KMT-led political repression. The various government organs previously in Nanjing were re-established in Taipei as the KMT-controlled government actively claimed sovereignty over all China. The Republic of China retained China's seat in the United Nations until 1971.
In the 1970s, the Kuomintang began to allow for "supplemental elections" on Taiwan to fill the seats of the aging representatives. Although opposition parties were not permitted, Tangwai (or, "outside the party") representatives were tolerated. In the 1980s, the Kuomintang focused on transforming itself from a party of a single-party system to one of many in a multi-party democracy, and on "Taiwanizing" itself. With the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986, the Kuomintang found itself competing against the DPP in Taiwanese elections. Lee Teng-Hui, the ROC President and the leader of the Kuomintang during the 1990s, angered the People's Republic of China and a significant number of voters on Taiwan with his advocacy of "special state-to-state relations" with the PRC, which many associated with Taiwan independence. In order to maintain influence, the Kuomintang was allegedly involved in vote-buying and black gold, which decreased its support among the Taiwanese middle class.
As the ruling party on Taiwan, the KMT amassed a vast business empire of banks, investment companies, petrochemical firms, and television and radio stations. Its wealth in the year 2000 was at an estimated US $6.5 billion, making it the richest political party in the world. Although this war chest appeared to help the KMT throughout until the mid-1990s, it led to accusations of black gold corruption, and after 2000, the KMT's financial holdings appeared to be far more of a liability than an asset. After 2000, the KMT divested itself of much of its assets, although there were accusations in the 2004 presidential election that the KMT retained assets that were illegally acquired. According to political opponents, most of the KMT's properties used to be governmental public assets belonging to the Japanese ruling government and were not supposed to be transfer to non-governmental entities after the second world war. Currently, there is a law pending in the Legislative Yuan to recover illegally acquired party assets. The KMT also acknowledged that part of its assets were acquired through extra-legal means and thus promised to "retro-endow" them to the government. However, the quantity of the assets which should be classified as illegal are still under heated debate; DPP, the current ruling party, claimed that there is much more than KMT has acknowledged. Also, the KMT also actively sold assets under its title in order to quench its recent financial difficulties, which the DPP argues is illegal.
The Kuomintang faced a split in 1994 that led to the formation of the Chinese New Party, which fell apart in the legislative elections of 2001. A much more serious split in the party occurred as a result of the 2000 Presidential election. Upset at the choice of Lien Chan as the party's presidential nominee, former party Secretary-General James Soong launched an independent bid, which resulted in the expulsion of Soong and his supporters and the formation of the People's First Party (PFP). The KMT candidate placed third behind Soong in the elections, leading Lee to resign as party chairman. In order to prevent defections to the PFP, Lien moved the party away from Lee's policies of separatism and became more favorable toward Chinese reunification. This shift led to Lee's expulsion from the party and the formation of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
With the party's voters defecting to both the PFP and TSU, the KMT did poorly in the December 2001 legislative elections and lost its position as the largest party in the Legislative Yuan. More recently, the party did well in the 2002 mayoral and council election with Ma Ying-jeou, its candidate for Taipei mayor, winning by a landslide and its candidate for Kaohsuing mayor narrowly losing but doing surprisingly well. Since 2002, the KMT and PFP have coordinated electoral strategies. In 2004, the KMT and PFP ran a joint presidential ticket, with Lien running for president and Soong running for vice-president.
In December 2003, however, the KMT chairman and presidential candidate, Lien Chan, initiated what appeared to some to be a major shift in the party's position on the linked questions of Chinese reunification and Taiwanese independence. Speaking to foreign journalists, Lien said that while the KMT was opposed to "immediate independence," it did not wish to classed as "pro-reunificationist" either.
At the same time, Wang Jin-pyng, speaker of the Legislative Yuan and the Pan-Blue Coalition's campaign manager in the 2004 presidential election, said that the party no longer opposed Taiwan's "eventual independence." This statement was later clarified as meaning that the KMT opposes any immediate decision on unification and independence and would like to have this issue resolved by future generations. Lien did, however, endorse the concept of a confederation with the PRC.
There has been a recent warming of relations between the pan-blue coalition and the Communist Party of China, with prominent members of both the KMT and PFP in active discussions with officials on the Mainland. In February 2004, it appeared that KMT had opened a campaign office for the Lien-Soong ticket in Shanghai targeting Taiwanese businessmen. However, after an adverse reaction in Taiwan, the KMT quickly declared that the office was opened without official knowledge or authorization. In addition, the PRC issued a statement forbidding open campaigning in the Mainland and formally stated that it had no preference as to which candidate won and cared only about the positions of the winning candidate.
On domestic policy, the party is conservative and is a member of the International Democrat Union.
- Chris Taylor, "Taiwan's Seismic shift," Asian Wall Street Journal, February 4 2004 (not available online)
- Kuomintang official web site (http://www.kmt.org.tw/) (English (http://www.kmt.org.tw/Aboutus/English/Aboutus-12.html))